Of Naples and Ney­mar

The Economic Times - - Sports: The Great Games - In­dra­jit Hazra

I know, I know. It’s like com­par­ing Naples and or­anges, but it may not be to­tally worth­less to re­mem­ber, at this junc­ture, an­other foot­baller mov­ing from Camp Nou to less sanc­ti­fied climes and the de­bate that move gen­er­ated like a bark­ing foot­ball.

At 24, Diego Maradona in 1984 was a year younger than what Ney­mar is to­day. He was hav­ing a worse time at Barcelona than Ney­mar is sup­posed to have had of late, prompt­ing the Brazil­ian’s de­par­ture to Paris St Ger­main.

Re­mem­ber, in 1984 Maradona is pre-1986, pre-El Diego, show­ing flashes of what is to come, but get­ting into on­field fights, yet to ac­tu­ally pull off (and into the net) what he would in, and af­ter, Mex­ico. And he was scrap­ping with the Barca man­age­ment, not fit­ting in. A star peg-inthe-mak­ing in the wrong glo­ry­hole.

But sure enough, there was a club will­ing to scoop him out of the liv­er­ied bow­els of Barca for a then-world record trans­fer fee of — hold your breath — $10.48 mil­lion. (Paul Pogba’s trans­fer fee from Ju­ven­tus to Mach­ester United in 2016, till a few days ago the high­est, was not that strato­spheric, once you count in­fla­tion and to­day’s des­per­ate club-eat-club cap­i­tal­ism. Whereas, Ney­mar’s trans­fer fee of $263 mil­lion, well, it’s just the stuff that you’d ex­pect to find in Bizarro World where Planet htraE is cube­shaped, Bizarro bonds are ‘Guar­an­teed to lose money for you!’, and Don­ald Trump reads The Ni­co­machean Ethics.)

Maradona’s was seen as a weird move. Look­ing at the June 1982 pho­to­graph (see pic) in which the Ar­gen­tine is ‘cel­e­brat­ing’ his ar­rival with Napoli pres­i­dent Cor­rado Fer­laino, it seems that every­one’s stepped on a turd be­fore be­ing­madeto­pose­with­skimpy,su­per­mar­ketcham­pagne. And Barca wasn’t un­pleased to let him go.

Bu­tit­wasstil­lMaradon­amov­ingfromCruyff’sBarcelona to, um, Giuseppe Savoldi’s Napoli.

Ney­mar, or so the the­ory goes – and like the one about Earth­cir­clingth­eSun,Iam­li­able­top­ut­my­moneyon—is ready to be the big­ger fish in a small(er) pond. While the Brazil­ian­has­beena­nun­de­ni­ablepronginthetri­dent­that was Messi-Suarez-Ney­mar — ‘MSN’ to every­one ex­cept Marathis–hewas­aprong­toMessi’sgong.Some­thingthat inar­guably, but un­der­stand­ably, has been the case with the rest of the team, shiny, happy Suarez in­cluded.

While fan fingers are now wag­ging with the words, ‘The club is big­ger than you, boy’, a sim­i­lar jibe went out to Maradona when he joined the ‘non-Ital­ian Ital­ian club’. His first sea­son with Napoli saw the club 8th in Serie A.

As this sea­son’s Ligue 1 kicks off tonight, Ney­mar will be well aware that PSG ended No. 2 be­hind Monaco last sea­son. There is only one way to go: up. (Well, ac­tu­ally, no, con­sid­er­ing PSG could well slide down the Ligue 1 pole into im­pen­e­tra­ble depths of Europa and worse, but you know what I mean.) It took Maradona two sea­sons — and that World Cup — to make grav­ity do his bid­ding. In 1986, El Diego pulled Napoli sin­gle­hand­edly to a dou­ble — and by 1988-89, Napoli was Europe’s cham­pion club. Once again, I know, I know, it’s Naples and Ney­mar. But at 25, doomed to be un­der the shadow of the world’s finest foot­baller, what would you do? Aim to break the glass ceil­ing, win PSG the Cham­pion’s League (along with Ligue 1, of course), and, who knows, get Brazil back its World cham­pi­oning glory? Frankly, it’s the most ob­vi­ous thing for Ney­mar to do: want to make PSG a Napoli, and be a Messi in PSG.

FOOTBUBBLY: Maradona with Napoli pres­i­dent Cor­rado Fer­laino fol­low­ing his ar­rival to the club in 1984

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